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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Oil in Dubai: History & timeline

Dubai has approximately 4 billion barrels of oil in reserve and holds the second place in terms of oil reserves in the UAE. Dubai Petroleum Co (DPC) is the main operator in the emirate. Dubai’s oil production peaked in 1991 at 410,000 b/d and has been steadily declining ever since.

Dubai’s oil reserves have reduced over the past decade and are now expected to be exhausted within 20 years. The main fields are offshore: Fateh, Southwest Fateh and two smaller fields, Falah and Rashid. The only onshore deposit is the Margham field. Dubai Petroleum Company (DPC) is the main operator.

The production of condensate from the onshore Margham field is running at around 25,000 b/d. Margham, previously operated by Arco International Oil and Gas Company, is now run by the Dubai Margham Establishment, which is wholly owned by the Government of Dubai.

The government of Dubai owns the National Oil Company (ENOC), and this company handles the oil operations in Dubai, The Emirates Petroleum Products (EPCO) is associated with the ENOC, which distributes petroleum products to more than 125 distribution stations in Dubai and Northern Emirates.END

UAE Exchange to launch virtual card service

ATMs, swiping machines and smart cards — things that are associated with money transactions — might become redundant in the near future thanks to a new virtual card being launched by the UAE Exchange & Financial Services, a major player in the remittance business.

In a technological innovation that might revolutionise e-commerce, broaden financial inclusion and eliminate the hassles of cash and card payment, the UAE Exchange is introducing a virtual card payment service called XPAY. The product will help customers make mobile or internet payment for utilities and merchant establishments at zero transaction cost.

Developed in-house, XPAY is a pre-paid virtual card that will eliminate many payment formalities like SMS, e-mail or swipe. “We could launch this following the RBI order permitting NBFCs to issue pre-paid card under the payment and settlement Act”, said V George Antony, country head-India, UAE Exchange.

Debt crisis shows up the strains from Ukraine to UAE

Debt is becoming the big issue of the day. Thanks to concerted action by governments, and the dynamism of the Asian economies, the world has hitherto managed to avoid the worst of a global recession. But the bills still have to be paid, and the strain of doing so is putting enormous pressure on economies from Dubai to Dublin.

The economists call it “deleveraging”. To you and me, it is a case of living within new and tighter financial disciplines: lower credit card limits, fewer overdraft facilities and tighter mortgage conditions.

For national economies, it is a similar painful process, but has geopolitical repercussions. Nouriel Roubini, the economist who “called” the credit crisis and remains one of the great pessimists on the global economy, recently grouped the type of indebtedness threatening economic recovery, into three classes: property-related debt, with which the USA, Britain, Spain and Ireland are struggling; financial debt, which affects many EU countries, Russia and other former Soviet countries; and quasi-sovereign debt, a factor in Ukraine, and Dubai.

Follow the money

An investor who pooled money from poor villagers together to buy into Ezzedine’s scheme shows cheques that were written by Ezzedine as guarantees, none of which are valid today. Photograph by Bryan Denton

When Salah Ezzedine’s alleged pyramid scheme collapsed, it left thousands of Lebanese Shia with empty bank accounts – and presented Hizbollah with a crisis of authenticity. Joshua Hersh reports from Beirut.

In retrospect, there were plenty of signs that Salah Ezzedine’s investment operation did not entirely make sense. The promised rates of return – 40 per cent, 60 per cent, 80 per cent – would later get the most attention, but surely the paperwork ought to have set off alarm bells as well. By nearly all accounts, the sole record that Ezzedine provided to his many clients in Lebanon’s mainly Shia south was a cheque for exactly the amount they had invested with him. No quarterly statements, no balance sheets with pie charts and annuities and APRs. So long as they enjoyed collecting regular payments on their investment, all Ezzedine’s clients had to do was keep that cheque safely tucked away in their wallets. If they ever wanted out, they could take it down to the bank, and the money was theirs.

Of course, that was assuming there even was paperwork. Ezzedine, who was arrested in August for allegedly defrauding thousands of individuals, was so trusted in South Lebanon that, especially towards the end, few of his customers bothered to ask for anything like a receipt, or, for that matter, where the money was being invested.

True losses from HBOS Reading fraud = £925m

The losses suffered by HBOS as a result of the Bank of Scotland Reading fraud were, apparently, £925 million, not the circa £500 earlier reported. This comes from well-placed sources.

Yet it seems that the Financial Services Authority’s “investigation” into the scandal, requested by eight MPs and a Treasury minister in June, is destined to be another whitewash. Inside sources at the FSA recently let slip that the investigation has not yet got underway, and is being “outsourced” to an independent third party — thought to be Ernst & Young, which is joke given that the the ‘big four’ accountancy firm is heavily conflicted.

E&Y last year secured a major consultancy contract from Lloyds Banking Group, to oversee the integration of Lloyds and HBOS’s IT sytems, which one might have assumed meant it is likely to produce another lily-livered whitewash. Is this the seriousness with which financial crime is treated by the authorities in this country?

The £100,000 question

“Once bitten twice shy” encapsulates the current mood of many property investors. That is especially true of those who bought at the height of the boom only to discover that what they thought would be a launchpad was the edge of a precipice.

With bonuses back, better job security and low interest rates, however, the damage to pockets and egos is healing. Many investors are actively looking for nuggets of property gold and will be following Warren Buffett’s rule for buying: “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful”.

Here, 10 property industry insiders reveal how they would spend £100,000, if they had it. Where in the world and into what kind of property would they invest for the best likely return?